John Nelson takes home Shane Drury True Grit/Keeping the Faith Award. | TSLN.com
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John Nelson takes home Shane Drury True Grit/Keeping the Faith Award.

John, Nora and Tricia in the early years. Courtesy photo

John Nelson was the recipient of the 10th Annual Shane Drury “Keeping the Faith/True Grit Award.”

Each year, the winner of this prestigious honor is given a bronze of Shane riding the bull 409 Orleans at the PRCA rodeo in Greeley, Colo.

John Nelson would tell you he is just an “ordinary guy”…True statement. However ordinary he may be, God has brought him through extraordinary circumstances.

John was born in July 1972 and raised in Rapid City. He grew up in the Valley, playing baseball, racing dirt bikes, wrestling, on the pit crew at the races, and roping and riding. He spent countless hours team roping with his beloved horse, Scooby, winning a few buckles.

John is blessed to have had many special friends and family cross his path…

In 2001, John married Tricia Jones, a ranch girl from East of Sturgis. She is his partner and best friend. Their greatest gift, Nora Grace, was born in April of 2002. Together, these three have become a team that is a representation of hard work, determination, and disciples of Christ. The family has experienced an incredible journey, facing extraordinary circumstances of joy, disappointment, and heartbreak. Regardless of the circumstances, not once have they given up hope or lost faith…They have marched on.

Years ago, John was diagnosed with diabetes. As a result, his health began to fail. He had to replace roping and riding with being a sports Dad to Nora Grace. Softball and basketball now fill his days.

A round of sepsis led the “John Nelson Team” to a battle of serious health issues. Doctors determined the best option for John was a double organ transplant of a pancreas and a kidney. John was placed on “The List”……

February 17, 2015….Tricia shares….

“John Nelson and I are checked into Avera Hospital in Sioux Falls. We got “the call” early this morning to be on standby. Soon thereafter, told to hit the road. Please pray for strength and comfort for the donor family. My heart hurts for them. We are so blessed for their gift to us. The organs are a perfect match. Doctors said these new organs look amazing and are so healthy. Please pray they remember how to work from the moment they enter John’s body! Our family is ready for this. We’ve prayed for this day. We are blessed and so thankful for all of your love and support. Please say an extra prayer for our strong little warrior back home…Miss Nora Nelson! She is our greatest joy and her Dad’s biggest cheerleader! Our God is awesome and I am so humbled by his love for us.”

In the few days that follow, the doctors are at a loss for words. With heartbreaking news, blood clots are found in John’s kidney and pancreas, a sign of organ rejection. On Feb 21, 2015 tests show John has a rare auto-immune vascular clotting disorder which caused clots to be shot to many organs in his body. Clots to the optic nerve have caused John to lose his eyesight. CAPS, Catastrophic Antiphospholipid Syndrome, treatment is a total plasma transplant and blood thinners for life. John ‘s rejected kidney was removed. By the Grace of God, a true miracle appeared as the pancreas had only surface clotting. It was healthy and was performing perfectly.

Tricia’s post-surgery note read….. “God is good …All the time. We continue to praise God knowing He has us in His care. Our day will come, and O what a glorious day it will be.

John continues fighting to regain strength. A poster made by Nora Grace states it perfectly…..

“You can’t beat the person who never gives up.” -Babe Ruth

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

Since returning home, Team Nelson continues to see joy in the pain, the setbacks, and the emergency air trips to Sioux Falls. Through it all, they praise God daily

In July, John celebrated his 43rd birthday.

Tricia writes:

John is one of the toughest/strongest people I know. We have had a bumpy ride the last 6 months. He could have given up and thrown in the towel, but he didn’t. He may have lost his sight, but his heart will forever remain unchanged. John has the heart and soul of a champion. God certainly blessed me the day I said I do. God has big plans for this guy and our family. Nora Nelson, you are your dad’s pride and joy. He will forever be your biggest fan. So July 10th, we celebrate all the blessings God has given us. We will remember and pray for our donor’s family as we rejoice in the fact that John no longer is diabetic. In God’s peace and understanding, we all await the day when strength will allow John a new kidney and God willing a restoration of his eyesight. Until then…..”Team Nelson” can be found on the basketball court or at the softball field. John in the front row or situated behind home plate, cheering on his favorite catcher. After one spectacular game….Nora said…”Dad, I wish you could have seen my play.” John’s response….. “Oh, I saw your play…..I saw it with my heart!”

Tricia, John and Nora encourage you to consider giving the gift of life by becoming an organ donor. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone. We honor our HERO and his family each day. What a legacy to leave.

Shane Drury graduated from Central High School, which is located just across the street from where we sit tonight. To say that Shane was an inspiration to many would be an understatement. Indeed, the man had a profound impact on anyone that knew him. As a bull rider, he conquered beast after beast in the rodeo arena. Perhaps that prepared him for his battle with cancer- the fight that would eventually take him from this earth. Shane’s determination in the arena served him well as he beat the disease once and returned to competition with Gortex patches filling his chest wall where ribs had been removed. Round one of Ewing’s Sarcoma started in May of 2002, which included 15 chemo treatments and surgery to remove the tumor, as well as parts of four ribs and a piece of his lung. In June of 2003, doctors believed him to be cancer free. Shane came back to the arena, first as a competitor, and after being diagnosed a second time with Ewing’s Sarcoma, he returned as a judge. Throughout everything, he kept Strong Faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, a positive attitude, and was very well known for his perseverance. Shane had many highlights in his bull riding career. He was on the Southwestern Oklahoma State University men’s rodeo team that won the National Championship in 1999. In 2000, he made the trip to Las Vegas to compete at rodeo’s championship event, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR). He won the prestigious Reno (Nev.) Rodeo championship spurs in 2001, setting an arena record. He just missed qualifying for the NFR that year, finishing the season in 19th place. While making a bid to get back to the NFR, Shane began to experience back pain. Tests revealed that the pain was coming from a tumor. Drury faced the tumor head on, just as he faced every bull he ever got on – with the determination that he would come out on top. He did that to the end with a smile on his face. Cancer never got the best of Shane Drury; He saved that for all the people that knew him.

Bronze sculptor, Mavis Madison, and Jesse Drury (Shane’s brother) are proud to present Rapid City’s own, John Nelson as the winner of the 2016 Shane Drury Keeping the Faith/True Grit Award. We are honored to present John with the bronze statue of Shane.

The bronze is sponsored by Standard Metal Works, Grant Standard, Paul Larson of PL carpentry, Jesse Drury of Road Runner, Inc. and Mavis Madison who sculpted the bronze. This year we have a new sponsor to add- The UCRA (Use’ta Could Rodeo Association). UCRA is a group of retired rodeo cowboys who get together every year for a fishing tournament and auction items to raise money for this award, as well as the Shane Drury Nothin’ But Try Scholarship Fund. F

–Shane Drury Family


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